Friday, June 15, 2018

What time is it?*

When I saw Hamilton on Broadway last summer I knew I wanted my kids to see it too. The story, the cast, the music—they needed to have that experience.

Because it was coming to DC, I knew they would have that change. I also knew that it would be a really tough ticket to get and so I began scheming about how to get seats. The tactic I ended up with was season tickets for Alex and me and a rotating schedule of friends.

The bonus to this tactic is that Alex and I (and said rotating schedule of friends) got/get to see a bunch of other great shows at the Kennedy Center as well. In fact, we liked it so much that we renewed our subscription for next year (although we're shaking off the friends).

*takes a moment to acknowledge my complete and utter privilege here*

June 13 was the night for us. I had been looking forward to it for months. I'd even specifically scheduled my knee surgery to ensure my best theater experience. By the time Katie, Jack, and I drove down to the Kennedy Center to meet Alex I think they were happy it was finally time if only to get me to shut the hell up about how excited I was. (Quinn is going in September. He needs more of a one-on-one experience.)

Me, Katie, and Jack in front of the Hamilton poster
You guys, I'm not the only one. There was pretty much a line to take photos in front of the poster.
The show was fantastic. I even think the elderly couple sitting in front of me who reviewed their printed out Wikipedia page about the musical during intermission enjoyed it. (OMG, I love those people. So funny.)

I was so excited to see Jack and Katie's response to the show. Katie had been obsessed with the soundtrack for a while, but Jack had only heard parts of it, although he loves it and was excited to go to the show. In fact, if we're in the car and my kids are arguing with each other, I put on the soundtrack and everyone shuts up. It's one of my most foolproof parenting strategies.

They LOVED it. Jack has a tough time at long, stimulating events like this and Hamilton is LONG. But it held him. He got it. I was beyond proud of that kid. Katie of course loved it. In fact, there was only one time when I evidently laughed too loud that she got pulled away enough from it to lean over and whisper, "Mom, that was really loud."

Moms are always embarrassing.

And we're nice too. I could have leaned over near the end when all I heard was her snuffling to tell her that she was really loud, but I didn't. Although I was pretty encased in my own emotions by that time too.

Alex had steadfastly refused to listen to the soundtrack prior to the show, but he really liked it too. Mr. Stoic even cried at the end. It'll get you, that show. He's agreed to listen to the soundtrack all the way through on his commute so he can get some of the finer points of the lyrics that maybe he missed because of all my loud guffawing.

Alex drove home by himself because he'd come straight from work so I don't know how his trip was, but the kids and I glowed all the way home. I gotta tell you, those two children are pretty incredible. I'm really lucky to have them. It felt so good to share with them something that is so important to me and have them so truly appreciate it. It felt really connecting. Also, my car stopped for candy bars on the way home, so I obviously won "best car trip home."

We saw the show on its second night here, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of my local friends who got tickets taking their own photos in front of that poster and getting to experience the show. I'm so excited for all of you who are still living your pre-Hamilton lives—you're going to love it!

If you don't get to see the show, maybe you will enjoy this "got milk?" commercial from way back that I always think about when I think of the show.



* Showtime.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Knee Bone is Connected to the Gunk Blob

I am happy to report that my knee surgery was definitely the right decision and my recovery has been like butterflies and unicorns. I couldn't be happier. In fact, I am so delighted by how this went that I kinda want to have arthroscopic surgery on all my joints to improve them. That wouldn't be weird, would it?

My surgery was Friday May 25 at about 1pm, which was a bummer because I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything until afterward. Food isn't such a big deal, but it turns out that I am a fan of liquids. I was actively resentful when I got to the surgical center and there was a water fountain right there in the waiting room. Also, they made me pee for a pregnancy test (negative, thank the good lord!), which was no easy task considering it had been 12 hours since I'd ingested water.

Weirdly (according to Alex), I wasn't nervous about the surgery. I mean, it's not like I was performing it. I was just hopeful that I wouldn't say anything embarrassing while sedated, but otherwise I felt pretty chill about the whole thing.

Alex, on the other hand, was extremely concerned about them operating on the correct knee. He was aghast to hear that I wasn't drawing a big arrow and the words "THIS KNEE. THIS KNEE RIGHT HERE," on the knee they were fixing. I figured if they operated on the wrong knee, there was probably plenty wrong in there for them to fix, so it'd actually be not that bad.

In turns out, however, that apparently enough doctors have operated on enough wrong limbs that there is now a whole procedure in place to make sure that mistake isn't made, meaning the doctor used a single-use marker to sign the intended target of surgery.

My knee in a bandage with an ice pack on top and my doctor's initials on my leg.
I took this the day after surgery. I don't think that ice pack was doing much through the 26 layers of bandage.
 Alex hung out with me before surgery and took a picture "so we have one last photo of you."

Me in a hospital gown and hair net in a bed in the surgery center.
Alex has probably three photos of me on his phone and this is one of them.
As I suspected it would be, surgery was easy, fun, and took only about 10 seconds from my perspective. Then they gave me animal crackers, Percocet, and wheeled me out to my car. Altogether it was a pretty good deal.

My doctor had told me that I should take a week off of work, which I did. I was prepared to spend that entire first weekend in deep recuperation mode, but my body recovered much easier than I expected. I did nap for much of the afternoon after surgery, but felt pretty good otherwise. I was more tired than anything. I only had to use crutches for a day or two and didn't have a lot of pain. Short bursts of energy on my part, however, led to multi-hour naps. People tell me that's because my knee was doing a lot of work inside my leg healing, so I didn't feel too bad. Plus I'd given myself permission to laze around for a week, although if I were to do this again, I don't know that I would take that long. I got so bored I cleaned my kids' rooms. I live a charmed life. I'm really lucky.

[knockonwoodknockonwoodknockonwood]

Alex had told me that the doctor told him the surgery went well but didn't give me many details. When I went to my follow-up appointment with my orthopedist, he told me ("now that you're more coherent") that my knees were much older than I was. I don't know whether to feel pleased for me or outraged for my knees.

He also told me that even more impactful than the meniscus tear was all the "gunk" in my knee bones. He showed me lots of photos of said gunk before and after his cleaning it up. There was also a ligament caught on something that he freed up—or something to that effect; honestly the details of what happened inside there is not that super relevant to my life. I mostly care that I can use the knee again.

I'm almost three weeks post surgery now and I'm feeling great. Apparently being physically active prior to surgery results in a significantly easier recovery. I've started what will hopefully be about four weeks of physical therapy although the PT told me that I can't run until I can do a one-legged squat, so apparently I'm never going to be allowed to run again.

I've been enjoying PT. It's like a not-hard personal training session that ends with, in my case, an ice wrap that acts very similar to a blood pressure cuff wrapped around my knee that squeezes and releases for ten minutes. It's my new favorite thing in the world.

Except for getting to exercise again. I can't run yet, but I am back on my (newish) spin cycle (trying not to be a Peloton nerd, but OMG LOVE) and loving getting to work my body again.

In sum: Surgery > delightful Percocet > napping > deciding I love Percocet too much to keep using it > feeling pretty recovered > living a gunk-free life > yay!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Upside Down

Long time no speak, friends! I hope you're well. I had my knee surgery and am well on the mend and I very much want to tell you about it, but something else came up and I think it is important that we discuss it first.

off-brand PopTart, frosting side up

That picture up there is of a Pop Tart. Well, not a real Pop Tart, but some organic off-brand version of it. And, no, we're not debating whether brown sugar cinnamon is the best/only flavor worth eating, because that's just common knowledge.

What we are here to talk about today is how you would put that thing in your mouth. Now, when it comes to things like this breakfast pastry or bread sticks with Parmesan cheese on top, or a bite of food with frosting on it, I will always eat it delicious side down so that the frosting/cheese/brown sugar comes directly in contact with my tongue.

I gave this piece of advice to Katie when we were sharing bread sticks the other day and her reaction was suitable considering the life-changing nature of the knowledge.

Coasting off of my success with imparting knowledge to Katie and newly armed with the information that not everyone had thought of this, I decided to tell Alex in case this was new information that I could help him with.

Alex immediately made the utterly ridiculous claim of, “I don’t like to eat things upside down,” even though he'd ever tried it.

Now I turn to you to prove my point.

Do you eat your food upside down?

If no, is it because it never occurred to you until this moment?

Now that you are aware of this, will you always eat top-delicious food upside down?

Or, are you like Alex and completely uninterested in living your best life?

I'm confident that you all will see reason. And before you ask: No, I wouldn't eat something absurd like pizza upside down. Now you're just being ludicrous.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Orthos and Arthros

Bad news about my knee, friends.

Xray of my knee
Bad knee! Bad!

I got the results from my knee MRI a couple of weeks ago. I had waited a couple of days for my orthopedist to call me and when he didn't, I called to find out if they had my results and the receptionist told me that I had to make an appointment for that.

I told them that I wasn't going to do that because I didn't have a good experience with the doctor, so I would just take the MRI elsewhere. Now, it is at this point that I would imagine the receptionist would say, "Oh no, what was the problem? Maybe we can make it better," but that did not happen. Instead she said she'd have the doctor call with the results. And then instead, a non-doctor called me back to tell me I had a bone contusion and medial meniscus tear.

Evidently they didn't care why I'd had a bad experience or they just didn't care period. Cool.

My next step was to find a new orthopedist who could tell me what to do. (Well, actually my next step was to google the hell out of "medial meniscus tear" and discover that sometimes it needs surgery and sometimes it doesn't.) I'd gotten a recommendation from a friend for a new ortho, so I made an appointment for the following Tuesday and then went on a short run to see how it felt on the knee.

I was able to run and after a month without it, running felt amazing. Unfortunately, my knee felt significantly worse afterward AND I pretty severely strained my foot/ankle by compensating for the knee (or at least that's what my new orthopod suspects).

My appointment was last week. I made the appointment for 9:30 on a Tuesday and made a note to myself that I had to get there early to fill out forms. By Tuesday, I'd convinced myself that my appointment was a 10 and that I was supposed to get there at 9:30 with pen and insurance card in hand to be a good patient.

That's why I rolled into the ortho office at 9:32 on Tuesday, signed in, and was feeling pretty good about my ability to handle change.

Then the receptionist called me to the desk and told me the doctor I'd signed in for wasn't at that practice and that I was in the wrong place. Somehow I had managed to deliver myself to an entirely different orthopedic practice with which I had no affiliation whatsoever.

Good job, Jean. Never change anything ever again.

I hadn't put the correct ortho in my phone yet because I didn't know if I'd like him, so I had to search him up on the internet on my phone and beg forgiveness from the receptionist. This is when I found out that my appointment really was at 9:30—not 10. Evidently the front desk at my new ortho office is the nicest in the world because they gave me the correct address and told me that I could still come by to see the doctor. I already liked them better than my previous ortho practice.

Seriously, the front desk was great, the nurse was thorough and attentive, they updated me to let me know they were waiting for a fax from the imaging office so I wasn't wondering why it was taking so long to see the doctor. (Actually, I was prepared to wait all day what with their generosity in squeezing me in.) Also, the exam room in which they had put me had this numbered drawing of chipmunks on the wall:

Framed black and white drawing of three chipmunks.
It's like they knew I was coming.

Anywho, long story short, because of the type of tear I have, yadda, yadda, yadda, the doctor ended up recommending arthroscopic surgery, which I was assuming was orthroscopic surgery—you know, because it is done by an orthopedist—and just ten or so minutes ago discovered that it starts with an "a."

He said I didn't have to do it right away, but I am tired of not running and I figure the sooner I get it done, the sooner I can start relearning to run. Plus, I didn't want to get surgery in a couple or three months only to have to ease into running in the winter again, because that would be some buuuuuullshit.

My surgery is scheduled for just under four weeks from today, so you all should spend that time enjoying my lack of whining, because as soon as I'm hobbling around on crutches, I'm sure I will be the most annoying person in the history of the world. Also, crutches? I feel like they don't know how clumsy I am. This is likely to be a hilarious and embarrassing disaster of a recovery.

I actually feel okay about the whole thing. I'm glad it is something that can be fixed—or at least improved. If everything goes well, the recovery won't be too long and I'll be back on my feet soon.

Until then, I'm looking into upping my cycling and strength training. Although I gotta tell you, after not exercising for a month or so, my motivation is suffering. I gotta learn how to step up my non-running, non-eating activities.

Also, I would greatly appreciate not hearing about your arthroscopic surgery horror stories. Maybe after everything goes perfectly for me and I have a like-brand-new leg, we can talk about that, but until then, I mostly want to hear, "Gosh, that sounds fantastic; I think this is definitely the right decision and your recovery will be like butterflies and unicorns and you will be running at twice your normal speed within weeks."

That would be great, thanks.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Squirrel!

I suffered a deep disappointment this week.

I entered a Washington Post squirrel photography contest and I didn't win.

Wanna see my (winning) entry?

I mean, c'mon, right?
It's a squirrel! And it's eating a chocolate chip cookie! How does that not win?

You might remember this photo from a post I wrote several years ago about a trip to the Houston Zoo. Quinn tried to steal the cookie from the squirrel and it ran away. I submitted that information with the photo and still did not win.

Shameful.

Here's the stupid winning photo:

Okay, fine. It's pretty good.
And dammit, it's even cuter in color.

Who knew there were so many squirrel photography enthusiasts? I think I'm going to have to up my game for next year. And maybe purchase a better camera. And take a wildlife photography class. And tame a squirrel.

Watch out, award-winning photographers of small, amusing rodents, I'm coming for you.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The MRI Pot of Gold at the End of the Knee Injury Rainbow

I have had a lot going on since last we spoke. We moved offices at work, my family went on vacation to Albuquerque, and Katie and I went on her band trip to New Orleans.

Okay, when I say it like that, it doesn't sound like a lot, but trust me when I say that each of those things involved a lot of moving pieces and emotional labor. I successfully navigated each of those, however, and have come out the other side. I hope to tell you more about each of them, but that's not why I've called you here today.

You know how I'm always blathering on and on about running and I suddenly fell radio silent on the topic about a month ago? Well, for the first time in my running career, I suffered an acute injury, wherein my knee decided  that NO, THIS AGGRESSION WILL NOT STAND! and halted me in the middle of a run, when I was three miles from my home.

That was a long limp home.

I've had a lot of chronic aches and pains that are probably attributable to running, but I have not yet had an experience where I was all, "Uh oh. Something happened." I spent about a week limping about DC and Maryland and not being able to do things like run for Metro trains or across streets so I finally decided to go see an orthopedist/orthopod.

Said orthopod was kind of a jerkhole and was pretty dismissive of me and my injury. I think that he saw a chubby woman who said she hurt herself running and he assumed that I had just done a little too much and had regular old soreness. He didn't actually seem to hear me when I told him that three miles is nothing to me and actively looked skeptical when I told him my weekly mileage.

*makes squinched up angry face*

By this point in my injury, I wasn't limping quite as obviously and my pain level was manageable, so I probably didn't look super injured when he had me walk back and forth across his office and then do the same on tip toes. Then he asked me to walk on my heels at which point my knee immediately buckled and my pain shot through the roof. I have it on good authority that what that doctor did was have me hyperextend my already injured knee, which is something an orthopedist that believes what his patient is telling him probably shouldn't/wouldn't do.

I'm mad at the orthopod. He didn't even fucking blink that he made that happen.

Anywho, that evening I could barely walk. I was in sobbing tears because I thought I'd reinjured or further injured my knee and that it was now in really bad shape. I couldn't move my leg at all without stabbing pain.

It was a problem.

For his part, the doctor told me to ice the knee and take four Advil each morning and evening for a week and if it still hurt then, I should go in for an MRI. He even held up two hands, each with four fingers extended so I understood what he meant by four in the morning and four in the evening.

I repeat: I did not much care for this doctor.

I couldn't go for an MRI after a week because I was traveling all over the United States, so when I got home this week, I reassessed. I hadn't run since my injury and I'd been taking Advil and icing the knee. I was significantly better. I wasn't limping anymore and I was no longer in constant pain.

But the side of the knee hurts and sometimes when I move it in a new way, there is a shot of pain. I decided to get the MRI just to make sure nothing was wrong. I figured I'd rather find out everything is just hunky dory in the knee than run on it, destroying it step by step.

Frankly. I'd like to have an MRI of both hips, both knees, and both ankles, but I don't think they let you just decide that you want that.

Anywho, I went today and I gotta tell you, the MRI was kind of delightful. I mean, prying my wedding ring off of my sausage finger was a bummer, but once I'd climbed that hill, all was well. For knee MRIs, you go in feet first, so it's not claustrophobic. It is loud, but they give you noise blocking headphones and, frankly, that kind of background noise is actually calming for me.

I closed my eyes and laid very still for 25 minutes with very little problem except for that forehead itch at minute 15. Also, I am a toe stimmer and tend to twitch my toes A LOT, so I had to actively not do that, but otherwise, I was completely happy. I didn't have to talk to anyone. I was ensconced in an auditory and physical safe zone, and I was able to close my eyes and not have to be alert and awake.

Although after seeing the machine, I do have to say that a head-first MRI seems pretty bad — and I'm not even claustrophobic.

Afterward, the tech asked me how it had been. I told her it was relaxing and she said, "I don't believe you." I guess I am not like the other people.

Me standing in an MRI dressing room wearing a long patient gown
Also, I got to wear this ingenious gown with three armholes. Brilliant!
But for the fact that it will be Jerkface McOrthopod who will give me my test results, I look forward to finding out what is on the MRI. Hopefully Dr. Von Dismissive was right and it is nothing but achiness.

Regardless, I'm hoping to get out on the road again this week. I haven't gone without running for this long in years. It will be interesting to see how it goes out there. And by "interesting," I mean "awful," but that's okay. I hope to be boring you with running selfie after running selfie soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Haiku Schmaiku

Something has been bothering me for three years.

When I go to work in downtown DC, I walk through an area of town known as "the Golden Triangle." Every spring the triangle people have a "Golden Haiku" poetry contest and publish the results on little placards that they jam into roadside gardens all over the area. I walk past eighty-six million of these little placards every morning and afternoon.

Now, I'm not big into poetry so we all know that this isn't my thing. We all know that I will resent being forced to read poetry on my way to work. We all know that I have some anger issues.

But it makes me Dennis from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia rageful that the word "haiku" is on those placards in three spots when the poems are not, for the love of all that it holy and just in this world, haikus.

Three lines. Five syllables. Seven syllables. Five syllables. Right?

Not according to the Golden Triangle Management Bureau.

always/one step ahead/sidewalk sparrow by Elizabeth Steinglass
I've wanted to write this post for three years, but haven't because it seems like an asshole move to put someone's poetry up on a blog and then scream at it. I actually like this poem, so I feel better screaming about the concept while still supporting the poet.

Now, in previous years I've been so agitated that I've gone to the website to look at the rules and they specifically state that the poetry doesn't have to follow that traditional haiku format. This year, probably because I'm not the only one ready to send angry letters about syllables, the website has a big quote at the top attributed to the Haiku Society of America that says: "Haiku...a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey an experience."

I'm not buying what you're selling, Haiku Society of America.

Maybe I'm overly literal. Maybe once my third grade teacher told me how many syllables are in a haiku, I shouldn't have locked on so solidly to that idea. Maybe I should just not look at the placards as I walk past them.

Or maybe I just need to finally write this post so the poison of this great injustice to my third grade soul can vent and be released.

haiku comes in threes
of five then seven then five
i feel better now